On the night of June 13, 1996, Judith Orloff, MD was appearing at Gene's Bookstore in the Plaza at King of Prussia, PA. Dr. Orloff, a psychiatrist, is presently Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at U.C.L.A. and a psychic. She was at the bookstore to promote her new book Second Sight. Having some free time that night I decided to swing by to see what she had to say for herself.
On hand was a gathering of 40 - 50 people. At least half of these people had a copy of her book ready to be signed. Dr. Orloff started the session with a run down of her biography and a view of her philosophy. She stated that she had had psychic talents since she was a child but felt that she had to suppress them when she started training in the male-dominated scientific medical field. After finishing her psychiatric residency, she decided to incorporate the psychic world into her psychiatry. Around the same time she was involved with the Mobius Group, a psychic research outfit located in Los Feliz, CA. Led by a Stephan Schwartz, they specialized in remote-viewing, psychic archeology and assisting in police work. She claims to have had some remarkable results with remote-viewing.
Dr. Orloff feels that everyone should develop their psychic powers. She also believes that dreams are very important to our daily lives, so much so that she keeps a diary of all of her dreams to keep track of their predictive powers. Dr. Orloff states that the dead can communicate with us especially through dreams and that Near Death Experiences are legitimate proof of the existence of an afterlife.
Dr. Orloff now always incorporates her psychic powers into her psychiatry. She feels that not doing so would deprive her patients of valuable insights and information. She even psychically screens her patients before she meets them. When she gets the name of a new client, she relaxes and meditates while focusing on the name. If she doesn't get a good feeling about the name, she doesn't accept that person as a patient.
From here it became a question and answer period. While the questions came from a wide range of perspectives, it soon became clear what the bias of the crowd was. One man wanted to know the difference between intuition and true psychic knowledge. He described a decision he made regarding a business venture where he would have to invest heavily. He was unable to sort out what to do. His "gut feeling" intuition said that he should not have gone through with this deal but he felt intellectually that it was a good deal and that he really wanted it to be a good deal. Well, in a fine tribute to sour grapes, he went through with the deal, took a sound beating and he now was asking Dr. Orloff what went wrong. Her response was that intuition and psychic knowledge are basically the same thing and our language doesn't yet have the words that fully reflect the true meanings of these concepts. With more research, they will be better understood.
A woman brought with her a briefcase full of documents and information regarding a treasure hunt. This expedition had a ship's captain who specialized in under-water recoveries and had obtained the proper clearances from the governments involved. Dr. Orloff had no desire to look at any of the maps or documents and only wanted to know what this woman's own feelings about this adventure were. The woman said that she honestly did not know and that was why she was seeking Dr. Orloff's advice. Dr. Orloff's response was that if this woman was seeking a personal escape and adventure, this would be an excellent experience for her but would probably not be a good financial investment. The woman stated that she was basically seeking financial gains, not adventure. Although it seems something was obviously missed here, the woman appeared satisfied by this answer.
My main reason for attending this affair was to see if there were any budding skeptics in the audience who were unfamiliar with the skeptical movement. If I found one, I hoped I could shed some light and information on them. There was one intelligent-looking gentleman there and, drawing on whatever limited psychic powers that I might have, I felt that he was the only other skeptic in the crowd. Well, then he asked Dr. Orloff whether some music he had created and submitted to a friend in California would pay off financially. I was doubly disappointed by his question and by the fact that my own psychic powers had failed (again). Her answer to his question was that it would be a shame to use such a talent just for money. (Should she be taking heed of her own advice?)
At the conclusion of this inquiry/fawning session, we were expecting some serious psychic readings which the bookstore's promotional flier said were going to occur. Due to her hectic schedule however, Dr. Orloff said that she was too burned out to be doing any readings tonight. It was at this point I chimed in with the first skeptical question of the night. "With all of the psychics out there, why didn't any of them warn that the ValueJet flight was going to crash?" The immediate moans of the audience showed me squarely where the sympathies of the audience lay. Dr. Orloff replied that they are still researching these powers and that they are honing their skills so that some day disasters like this will be prevented.
"James Randi has offered a prize, presently $600,000, to anyone who can prove they have a supernatural power. Why hasn't anyone claimed it?" The response was thoroughly unexpected. It was so unexpected that even Randi didn't expect it. When I met him at the World Skeptics Congress last June, I filled him in on Dr. Orloff and her reaction to him. "He really doesn't have the money." "He has no intention of ever giving up the money." "He makes it so that no one can win the money." These were just a few of the responses he expected her to say.
What she did say was, "God bless James Randi!" It turns out skepticism is a good thing and that Randi plays an important role weeding out all of the "fake" psychics.
I must admit that she was very good at not losing face in front of her supporters. I then pulled an envelope out of my pocket. All I asked for was for her to tell everyone what was in the envelope. "No, I won't be doing anything like that," she said. "Well, I can't say that I am surprised," I replied. Apparently, remote viewing over many miles is easy, but looking into an envelope in your own hands is hard. The believers at this point had had enough of me. I was like a heretic at a church service. A young woman in her early twenties leaped to Dr. Orloff's defense, saying, "Is this your idea of some kind of fun?" I responded, "No, I am only trying to find the truth." Unfortunately, it seemed I was the only one with this interest. No one approached me and so I soon took my leave. The envelope remains closed waiting for Dr. Orloff to tell me its contents. Maybe now that she's much further away she'll be able to see what is inside.